The term emotional intelligence describes the ability for people to identify and manage their own emotions, but it also defines the way people react to the emotions of others. People who have obtained this intelligence are better able to handle conflicts, respond to the needs of others, and avoid the disruptions that particularly intense emotions can cause in their own everyday lives. Here are ways to improve your own emotional intelligence in five key areas.
Self-awareness is important for being able to identify the emotions you experience daily. There are a few ways to improve your ability to do this.
- Meditate – Meditation can allow you time to accurately process your emotions. Doing this before you react to a significant event can change your life as it gives your emotional state time to breathe.
- Ask for help – Ask a few people you know and trust for input about your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure to take notes, and look for patterns in the things they say. Even if you don’t agree with the things they say, take them into consideration. After all, the goal is to understand how others perceive you.
- Keep a diary – This will allow you to pinpoint trends in the way you choose to react to things. For example, some people may resort to apathy to avoid conflict, while others may respond to even minor situations with anger.
Self-management involves discovering ways to handle your emotions once you can recognize what you’re feeling. In short, it’s about discovering the things that trigger your reactions, managing internal overreactions, and even attending to your own personal emotional needs. Sometimes, the best way to prevent a negative reaction to external stimulus (or an internal overreaction) involves changing your sensory input. If you’re in a warm room, go to a cool place. If it’s loud where you are, find a quiet place. This can “shock” your system and allow you to see things more clearly. Use this time to seek help from others, to talk to a trusted friend, or to simply be alone until you feel better.
Motivation can be described as the inner desire to accomplish something, whether that something is a project at work, emotional stability, or even a crossword puzzle. Surprisingly, many people who struggle emotionally are unable to identify the things that motivate them, so this is where you need to start. There are many ways to do this.
- Go back through old journals to find entries where you felt the most fulfilled, and try to duplicate those experiences.
- Create a list of the things you value most in life, and then think about how you can achieve goals related to those values.
- Accept the uncertainty that comes with life. No one leads a perfect life, and everyone faces challenges from time to time. When you learn to accept those challenges, and learn from them, you’ll feel far more motivated to achieve your goals, both now and in the future.
Empathy is your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand how and why they have certain emotions. It’s one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn as it can dictate the course of your relationships throughout life, whether they are with friends, romantic partners, family members, or coworkers. You can practice empathy to improve your emotional intelligence each day.
- Listen to understand, not to respond. Too many times, we listen for the sole purpose of formulating a response. This means we block out part of what someone says because we’re trying to come up with a reaction at the same time. Instead, try listening to understand someone and don’t worry about responding. This can allow you to experience empathy more fully.
- Consider a contrary position. If someone does something you don’t like, or something you don’t agree with, it’s worth your while to defend those actions in your own mind. Of course, you don’t have to change your mind on your own position, but it certainly can help you understand why people do some of the things they do.
Once you’ve taken the time to practice all the aforementioned facets of emotional intelligence, you can start using them in your everyday set of social skills. This takes place in three distinct steps.
- Identify, process, and handle your emotions. Whether someone is rude to you, you have an argument with someone close to you, or you have a problem at work, identifying and handling your emotions before they get out of control is key.
- Address problems while calm. Learning to postpone immediate reactions to external triggers and internal overreactions can go a long way. Take the time to calm down before you address any problems. You might find that the problem resolves itself in the meantime.
- Be cooperative. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page, especially when it comes to achieving a common goal. Even if you can’t come to an agreement in terms of methods, try your best to end on a positive note and let the other person involved know that you want to achieve the best possible results.
Emotional intelligence isn’t taught in school, but it’s just as valuable as knowing how to read or write. Improving your emotional wellbeing can improve every single aspect of your life – at home, at work, and in everyday social settings. It can even help you build your own self-esteem, which can go a long way toward reaching your personal goals.